Continuing our Fantasia Festival recap, Theo’s film-soaked hallucinations takes a look at the World Premiere of the Mormon Horror flick MISSIONARY, the Canadian Premiere of the powerful and brilliant THE DIRTIES, and Michael Cera’s latest oddball character in MAGIC MAGIC.
Director: Matt Johnson
Screenplay: Matt Johnson , Evan Morgan, Josh Boles
Cast: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Krista Madison, Josh Boles
Vagabond Spacecat: THE DIRTIES pretty much blew my mind.
MyzMyth: Funny, yet very disturbing. It felt real, and a lot of that probably has to do with much of the script being improvised on the go, and a lot of the participants not realizing a film was being made until later.
Demonobototron6066: Kevin Smith said, “This is the most important film you will see all year.” And I would agree. It is important. Especially now.
Spacecat: The film follows two, constantly bullied, geeky students (Matt and Owen, played by Matt Johnson and Owen Williams) as they make a film for a class project. They decide to make a film where they act out their revenge fantasies on the bullies, who they name The Dirties… only it doesn’t go over as well as they thought it would. In fact, things get worse in the bullying department… which leads them to re-think things and plan another movie that strives to be… a lot more real.
DBT6066: Describing this film can’t really do it justice. Just watch it and you’ll see why.
MyzMyth: The reason this film works is because you really get a good sense of Matt & Owen. They’re constantly filming each other or being filmed. They’re always interacting. You even see them editing the very film that you’re currently watching. The film is essentially a documentary. Only it isn’t. But it is. But it isn’t.
DBT6066: There was so much realness in this film. One telling scene was when Matt asked his mother if he was a psychopath. You know, just matter-of-factly as she was in the kitchen. The producer/co-writer of the film told the Fantasia crowd (two sold out screenings, btw!) that Matt’s mother (actually played by Matt’s mother!) didn’t realize she was being filmed and actually thought her son was just asking her a question. Moments like that were really effective in giving this film that fly-on-the-wall feel.
MyzMyth: At times you really forget you’re watching a film and just think you’re watching two friends acting goofy.
Spacecat: And every good film has conflict and you see that in this film. You see two really good friends clash over these plans and question them. Is this getting too real? Is this just another one of his obsessions of the month? Why are we doing this? Should I still do this? Wasn’t this just a joke?
DBT6066: Every geek can see a bit of themselves in this kids. And that’s the scary thing.
MyzMyth: And they’re not bad kids. And you never really see them as bad. Just troubled kids.
Spacecat: They’re just currently dealing with a bad situation… And it’s obvious to the viewer what’s going on. But the lack of anyone at the school or home doing anything about it. Questioning things that are going on, or interfering when they get the crap kicked out of them on a regular basis… that’s frightening too. Because this stuff happens in real life everyday. And no one really acts on it until it’s too late.
DBT6066: But don’t let Spacecat’s soapbox fool you, this isn’t a preachy film either. It’s really funny. There’s a lot of memorable scenes and funny dialogue. Especially when Matt & Owen are filming the initial film. It’s that weird mix of drama/comedy and found footage/documentary and narrative/gonzo filmmaking that makes this one worth a look. A lot of references to other films, too.
MyzMyth: It’s also very poignant and moving. And smart. Very smart.
Spacecat: It’s brilliant in every sense of the word. It’s already won a heap of awards at SLAMDANCE and with Kevin Smith picking this one up for his film club this will definitely get a lot of attention. As well it should. It’s a very good look at the mentality behind school shootings without glorifying or sensationalizing it and removing the human element.
DBT6066: I once attended a screening of a horribly made total rank amateur film about bullying that completely missed the point of what it was trying to do to the extent that it felt like I was being bullied by bad cinema. This is not that movie. THE DIRTIES is not only an excellent film but it’s one of the best looks and statements on bullying ever made. And that’s even more impressive when you figure that Matt Johnson not only directed and starred in this, but also co-wrote it. I can’t wait to see what this kid comes up with next.
MyzMyth: THE DIRTIES comes out October 4th in theatres and on demand, and it’s much better than any of us could possibly explain. Powerful stuff.
Director: Sebastian Silva
Screenplay: Sebastian Silva
Cast: Juno Temple, Michael Cera, Emily Browning, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Agustin Silva
Spacecat: Magic Magic stars Juno Temple as bewildered and panic-attack-y American vacationing in Chile and Michael Cera is the douchey friend of her cousin.
MyzMyth: If you ever wanted to see Michael Cera in a completely different role, this is the film.
DBT6066: He also drops a lot of Spanish.
MyzMyth: And he’s a douchebag.
Spacecat: If you like your suspense films low-key with just a touch of weird, then MAGIC MAGIC has something for you.
DBT6066: This film has been compared to mid-60s Polanski, and I completely agree. This film feels like something from his Apartment Trilogy. It’s very REPULSION.
Spacecat: But it clearly also has its own voice. Tonally it’s the same. It would fit on the same shelf… but this is a very different film.
MyzMyth: It also plays with the tropes of clueless American traveller in over her head and confused with culture, but there’s something more to it.
Spacecat: You’re basically seeing the complete and utter mental breakdown of a young woman in a strange land. Some of it provoked. Some of it due to her own madness… or is it something else?
DBT6066: The filmmakers do a great job of showing this madness. They carefully give us just enough information to make us question things ourselves. They peel that curtain back a bit to let us see what’s going on ourselves.
MyzMyth: Great acting by the cast. Juno Temple (seen last year in the amazing KILLER JOE) is phenomenal all this disturbed and mentally tortured young woman (Alicia). Nothing is going right for Alicia. Alicia is supposed to meet up with her cousin in Chile, and that goes fine… except her cousin suddenly has to go and complete an exam or something. Yup. But it’s okay, because her cousin’s friends will take care of her. So Alicia takes a very long car trip with people she barely knows speaking a language she doesn’t understand.
DBT6066: And her uncomforted just increases from that point on.
Spacecat: One of them is Brink (Cera), another American, but a rather odd one. You can’t really figure him out at first, but you soon learns he’s fascinated by Alicia and enjoys teasing her.
DBT6066: Did we mention he’s a bit of a douchebag? Because he is.
Spacecat: Or is he? You do learn a lot more about him at the end. And get a clear answer on where his motives lie. But yeah, he definitely excels at douchebaggery.
MyzMyth: The other characters each have their own weird quirks too. It’s far too much for Alicia but she can’t leave if she tried.
Spacecat: Things just get worse and things just get stranger and stranger. Even the animals act funny around her.
DBT6066: The final act gets even weirder and some questions get answered but nothing is neatly tied in big bow.You’re still left with more questions than answers and it’s a hell of a frightening ride.
MyzMyth: But nothing gets TOO WEIRD.
Spacecat: Well, there’s that whole thing at the end…
MyzMyth: But that’s still fitted in reality, more or less. What’s weird to one is cultural tradition to another.
DBT6066: One can interpret the end in many ways… but dramatically it’s a hell of shift and gives the cast more to work with. This film is a slow burn… but once it’s cooking, yeowch.
MyzMyth: This is the same kind of weird psychological thriller that BLACK SWAN has with a lot less of that weirdness. It’s fun, different, and worth a look to see this talented young ensemble work against their type. There’s some funny moments here… but this is definitely not a comedy.
Spacecat: Really quiet theatre after this one was over.
DBT6066: Yeah, the ending stays with you for a bit.
MyzMyth: The film has layers to it. Worth a look. Damn good pick, Fantasia!
Director: Anthony DiBlasi
Screenplay: Bruce Wood, Scott Poiley
Cast: Dawn Olivieri, Mitch Ryan, Kip Pardue, J. LaRose
(video via joblo.com)
Spacecat: A single mother gets involved with a hunky young Mormon. Hardly what you would expect from a horror film… but wait, there’s more. The mom gets back together with her husband (he wants to work things out) and put an end to her little love affair… but the Mormon has other plans.
MyzMyth: Cue the tagline: MORMON LOVE IS FOREVER.
DBT6066: I did not expect to like this one as much as I did.
MyzMyth: A psycho mormon? What’s not to love?
Spacecat: In less than capable hands this could have been laughably bad, but it isn’t. This is actually good. THE MISSIONARY is very good.
MyzMyth: I think the reason this works is because it isn’t played for laughs. This isn’t a parody film. This is a real terrifying stalker film in the same vein as FATAL ATTRACTION or SINGLE WHITE FEMALE.
DBT6066: Also noteworthy, is that the Mormon faith, often the butt of many jokes, isn’t really ridiculed in this movie. They easily could have done that, but they didn’t take the easy way. In fact, the film makes it very clear that Elder Brock (the Psycho Mormon in question, played perfectly by Mitch Ryan) was clearly unstable before he found Mormonism. He just happens to be a Mormon and who just happens to use his current Mormonism values to justify his crazy behaviour.
MyzMyth: Using a religion and corrupting it’s values to justify violent and evil behaviour? Sounds familiar…
Spacecat: So, yeah, Elder Brock is obsessed with this woman (and her kid) and wants to build the perfect mormon Celestial Family.
MyzMyth: Which is way different than Celestial Catnip, btw.
Spacecat: When the real dad shows up, and turns out not to be a deadbeat, well, Brock isn’t too pleased.
DBT6066: He’s soooo creepy! And it’s apparent that he’s clearly way more into this woman than she is to him. It’s obvious, but of course, like every crazy obsessive, he sees what he wants to see.
MyzMyth: Obsessed is the key word. He’s obsessed with this family, and believes he’s right. It’s not just crazy for sake of crazy– don’t get me wrong, he’s definitely crazy — but he feels this is what’s right. So taking out people that stand in his way isn’t an issue.
Spacecat: There’s a scene that completely elicited an audible gasp from the sold out audience. It’s one of those films. You’re watching and you’re gripped at the edge of your seat.
DBT6066: Is it the scene where you see just how determined he is to remove the head of the family?
MyzMyth: My mouth is still agape. It was gloriously wrong!
DBT6066: There’s a lot of moments like that. And it just builds and builds. You really don’t know which way it’s going to go.
MyzMyth: Strong character work too for the Mother (Dawn Olivieri). She’s definitely not conventional. She works in a scrapyard. She’s tough. She can handle herself. There’s a lot of women just like her but we don’t often get to see them on the screen.
Spacecat: There’s also a great scene with the dad (Kip Pardue) and his friends showing Brock some good old fashioned small town hospitality.
DBT6066: This film had a lot of good moments. Gets quite violent too, as you would expect.
MyzMyth: While the gore isn’t constant, the scenes that have it really don’t disappoint.
DBT6066: Hear that, gorehounds? Splatter and gore!
Spacecat: There’s something for every thriller fan in this one.
MyzMyth: More fun than church on a sunday!
MyzMyth: Okay, not the best analogy… but seriously, give this film a look. The crowd loved it.
END OF PART THREE